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When Narcissism Strikes: How to Navigate a Narcissist & Reclaim Your Life

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Narcissistic man posing with a crown

Have you ever felt that your thoughts don’t count, and your voice falls on deaf ears?

Nothing stings more than realizing that the person ignoring you is someone near and dear. Lately, I found out the hard way – my good friend turned out to be a narcissist.

Narcissism has become a buzzword permeating modern culture, prompting many to reflect on their behavior and wonder if they display any infamous traits. While we should all have more than a touch of healthy self-esteem, it’s crucial to recognize when self-admiration crosses the line into full-fledged narcissism.

The Bitter Taste of Discovering Your Good Friend Is a Narcissist

Older man fixing his tie in the mirror

My friends and I were planning a girls’ getaway and were finally excited to have some free time from our busy schedules. However, when I suggested a pickleball meet-up at the community center, my friend immediately shut me down. She said she wanted to do something else. When I asked her why, she responded, “because I said so.”

We had always had such great conversations together. We easily talked about everything under the sun and shared stories that made us laugh until tears ran down our cheeks.

But this moment changed everything—it showed me that while my friend may have been fun to hang out with, she lacked any respect or appreciation for my ideas or opinions.

Discovering someone is a narcissist can be an uncomfortable experience, but it doesn’t mean the friendship has to end. Instead, I used it as an opportunity for growth in myself and our relationship.

It may take time, but eventually, understanding why your friend is a narcissist will help you learn how to communicate better with them and ultimately create healthier relationships in the future. After all, we all deserve healthy relationships in our lives.

What Is Narcissism

The term “narcissism” comes from Greek mythology and the story of Narcissus, son of the river god Cephissus who fell in love with his image reflected in a pool of water.

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, narcissism is a psychological condition that affects about 6.2% of the general population. It is more prevalent in men (7.7%) than women (4.8%). (1)

If you’re living with a narcissist, there are some tell-tale signs.

First and foremost, you’ll notice their need for attention and admiration. (2)

Narcissists often seek out situations where they can be the center of attention and become upset if they are not given the attention they feel they deserve.

Angry businessman raising his index finger

Narcissists are also often highly sensitive to criticism and may react with anger or defensiveness when criticized. They may also become envious of others they perceive to have more success or attention than they do.

Narcissists may also lack empathy toward others. They may be unable to understand or relate to the feelings and experiences of others and may be dismissive of other people’s emotions. They may also engage in manipulative behaviors to get what they want, such as lying, exaggerating, or playing the victim.

Narcissists may also feel entitled and believe they deserve special treatment or privileges that others do not.

Living with a narcissist is challenging and can take a toll on your mental health and well-being. If you’re living with a narcissist, setting boundaries and protecting your emotional health is essential.

Dealing with a Narcissist

Older woman holding up her hand as a sign to stop

Here are a few strategies for dealing with a narcissistic partner, friend, or family member:

1.   Set Boundaries: Establish clear and consistent boundaries and communicate them to the narcissist. Tell them what behaviors are unacceptable and the consequences if they cross those boundaries with you.

2.   Don’t Engage in Arguments: Narcissists thrive on conflict and drama. Do not engage in arguments with them, as it will only escalate the situation. Instead, try to stay calm and disengage from the conversation if necessary.

3.   Practice Self-Care: Taking care of yourself when living with a narcissist is essential. Ensure you get enough sleep, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. Spend time doing things you enjoy and seek support from friends or a therapist if needed.

Recognize the “Narcissist” in You

Worried older woman looking into mirror

Navigating relationships with narcissists is crucial, but so is ensuring you don’t become one yourself.

Ready for a little introspection? Below are a few savvy techniques to dodge the slippery slope into self-obsession and maintain a healthy sense of self-worth.

Building Enriching Relationships: Sharing the Spotlight

Bottom view of a group of older female friends who formed a circle and smiling

A good way to prevent behaving like a narcissist is to cultivate and maintain healthy, meaningful relationships. Open lines of communication and active listening practice are critical steps.

When engaging with others, consciously remind yourself to give your loved ones the attention they deserve, share experiences, and foster meaningful connections that validate the emotions of those around you.

The Game of Humble Pie: Embrace Your Imperfections

Smiling older woman hugging a paper heart around her chest

Nobody is perfect; we are all works in progress, and embracing our imperfections is key to keeping narcissism at bay. We nurture our humility and empathy reserves by accepting and learning from our mistakes.

Embracing a growth rather than a fixed mindset will allow you to improve yourself continually. Better yet, why not share the credit? Giving credit where it’s due demonstrates that you can appreciate the contributions and skills of others, in turn avoiding any narcissistic behavior.

The Empathy Factor: Forging Emotional Connections

A group of people clasping their hands together in a circle

A hallmark characteristic of narcissism is a lack of empathy – the inability to appreciate or understand other people’s feelings. To keep your inner narcissist in check, practice empathy.

Start by considering others’ perspectives and actively placing yourself in their shoes. Lend a helping hand without expectation of reward, and celebrate their victories while providing support during tough times.

An unbiased, compassionate attitude will open the door to more profound human connection and safeguard against narcissistic behavior.

A Reality Check: Healthy Self-esteem vs. Narcissism

Confident older woman smiling with folded arms

There’s a thick line between healthy self-esteem and narcissism, and staying on the righteous side of this line is the ultimate goal. Take some time to evaluate your behavior and motivation – adjust accordingly.

Are you taking pride in your accomplishments, or does it escalate to a sense of superiority?

Do you support others in pursuing their goals or downplay their success to bolster your ego?

These two introspective prompts can help maintain an ego in equilibrium.

In the pursuit of dodging the self-admiration trap, we must first recognize and understand what constitutes narcissistic behavior and then actively work to combat it.

Fostering healthy relationships, embracing imperfections, practicing empathy, and embracing healthy self-esteem are the cornerstones of an approach that can help you avoid narcissism’s clutches.

By integrating these pillars into our everyday lives, we commit to living in harmony with ourselves and the world around us, all while becoming more authentic and empathetic beings.

1. Stinson, F. et al. (2008) “Prevalence, Correlates, Disability, and Comorbidity of DSM-IV Narcissistic Personality Disorder: Results From the Wave 2 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions”, The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 69(7), p. 15401. l (Accessed: 21 March 2023).
2. 5 Signs You’re With a Narcissist (2023). (Accessed: 21 March 2023).

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